Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is catching flak from Republican Party allies and Ukrainian officials for characterizing Russia’s invasion of the Eastern European country as a “territorial dispute.”
Mr. DeSantis was responding to a questionnaire from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson where the governor wrote the U.S. has many “vital national interests” that include securing the border, achieving energy independence and thwarting China before saying that “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”
“The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges,” Mr. DeSantis wrote in the Monday statement.
Republican senators were quick to counter the Florida governor, who is expected to announce his 2024 run for the White House this year.
“This is not a territorial conflict. This is a war of aggression,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said Tuesday. “To say it doesn’t matter is to say war crimes don’t matter.”
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, told CNN, “Gov. DeSantis is a veteran. He’s a smart guy. I think he’s been a very good governor, and I don’t understand him saying that Ukraine isn’t important to the United States.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican, told NBC News, “I’d certainly hate to send a signal to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin that we’re not concerned about him, and I’d certainly hate to send a signal to other allies around the world that you’re on your own.”
Mr. Cramer also acknowledged the GOP’s populist shift that’s more concerned with domestic policy by saying, “We have a base that’s restless, and if [DeSantis] is running for president, he probably needs to speak to that base a little bit.”
Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, suggested that Mr. DeSantis come to Ukraine to get better acquainted with the conflict.
We are sure that as a former military officer deployed to a combat zone, Governor @RonDeSantisFL knows the difference between a ‘dispute’ and war. We invite him to visit Ukraine to get a deeper understanding of Russia’s full-scale invasion and the threats it poses to US interests https://t.co/BLLam9G8lV— Oleg Nikolenko (@OlegNikolenko_) March 14, 2023
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, has said that while he supports Ukraine, there “can’t be a blank check” written for the U.S. ally.
Mr. DeSantis concluded his response by saying Americans deserve to know how their taxpayer dollars are being used in Ukraine.
“We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted,” he wrote.
• Matt Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.
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